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It time to practice turkey talk

PDT Sports Report

March 30, 2013

G. Sam Piatt


PDT Outdoors Writer


Hunters are expected to find success with this spring’s wild turkey seasons in Kentucky and Ohio.


The season opens April 13 and runs through May 5 in Kentucky; while Ohio’s season opens April 22 and runs through May 5 also.


Kentucky wildlife officials say last summer’s drought had no adverse affect on the number of chicks that were hatched and made it to adulthood.


The drought saw some food sources, such as wild blackberries, dry up. This season, according to Steve Dobey, wild turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife resources, should see about the same turkey kill as that of the past three seasons.


Dobey told Art Lander Jr., state writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, that this spring should see the harvest of a relatively high number of two-year old gobblers.


“Barring any long term rain events this spring,” he said, “I hope to see a less pronounced version of our 2010 record season.”


Dobey said northeastern Kentucky saw little impact on turkey populations caused by the dry weather.


The turkey population looks especially good in the counties bordering the Ohio River, said Wes Mattox, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife private lands biologist for the region.


OHIO OUTLOOK

There were 17,657 gobblers killed during last year’s Ohio spring wild turkey season, a decline of three percent over the previous year.


Last year’s season ran four weeks, from April 23 through May 20. The 2013 outlook is for at least as good as last year.


More than 90 percent of Ohio hunters hunted on private land. The top producing county in the state last year was Ashtabula, where 762 gobblers were checked in.


Seventy-seven percent of the statewide harvest was composed of adult gobblers.


GET UP EARLY?

Turkey hunting is not a sport favored by the late sleeper. Most hunters want to get out of bed early enough to drive 30 or 40 miles across back roads and still use a flashlight to enter the woods and make it to their set-up location. That way they’re near the roost when the big gobblers fly down, and these springtime wild and edgy birds have something more on their minds than breakfast as they begin gathering in their harem.


The thrill is almost indescribable when you produce a few soft yelps on your box call that bring an instant and nearby response. The moments after that first thunderous gobble are some of the most nerve-wracking, tension-laden moments you’ll ever experience.


As he comes closer, the anticipation is delicious and the knee supporting your shotgun seems to dance just a little. But the successful turkey hunter doesn’t have to get out of bed when the whippoorwills are still calling.


Some hit the woods at daybreak only to find their early morning efforts quite fruitless. Sometimes it’s the evening hunt, taking place as late as 5 p.m. that brings the most success.


Oftentimes the best hunting of the day comes in late afternoon or early evening. Hens have left the gobblers, which are now lonely for company. Also, the other hunters have gone home.


Harold Knight, the old turkey guide from western Kentucky, said over the years he’s probably had better luck around 10 in the morning than at any other time.


“They aren’t gobbling as much at that time of the day as they were earlier, but when you locate one that is, he’s more likely to come in,” Knight told outdoor writer Wade L. Bourne in Bourne’s dandy book, “Ultimate Turkey Hunting.”


Except in taste, the wild turkey of southeastern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky has little in common with the domestic bird that graces our Thanksgiving Day table. He epitomizes the “wild” in wildlife.


Bourne referred to him as “a package of boundless suspicion and pent-up energy wrapped in feathers.”


He’ll run or fly at the first hint of danger. Their senses of sight and hearing are unbelievable. They are the most difficult of all game birds to hunt.


But, once a year, when winter turns to spring and his desire to mate wells up in his breast, he will, like Garrett Vanderpool’s bird, sometimes let his guard down, and for just an instant…become an April Fool.


AMAZING COMEBACK

Turkeys are native to Kentucky and Ohio, but in the early twentieth century their numbers dwindled. While the species thrived here prior to settlement, habitat loss and unregulated harvest all but eliminated native populations.


Thanks to successful reintroduction efforts between 1978 and 1997, the wild turkey is now found in every Kentucky county and every Ohio county.


Dobey estimates the statewide population in Kentucky at 210,000 birds.


As gobbler populations have grown, hunters’ numbers have followed suit. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife expects the season to attract more than 115,000 sportsmen, women, and youth this spring, up more than 10,000 since 2001.


HE IS RISEN

The empty tomb the women found on that Sunday morning in that ancient land of Israel some 1,980 years ago, as far as celebrations go, means hardly anything at all…to the non-believer.


To the believer it means everything.


A well-meaning friend, noting how I wrote a column one Easter concerning proofs of the resurrection of Christ (I did so not to impress fellow church members but in hopes that some of my non-believing friends might become interested enough to investigate), told me I shouldn’t write about religion in an outdoor column appearing in a secular newspaper.


What if, he said, someone wrote that following Mohammed and believing that Islam, the most missionary-minded and fastest growing religion in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in some parts of Europe, is the only true way to Heaven? How would I feel about that?


Or how would I feel if a writer used this space to claim that the only way to Heaven is through belief and practice in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a host of other practices and ways?


This is the same argument used to keep the Bible and prayer out of school; to prevent the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.


OK. I get the point. No mention of religion here by me.


But I think we can all agree that there has to be one universal truth


I’ll just say…check out the authority that moved Jesus to say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).


And check out the empty tomb. Get in touch with the One who vacated it.


G. Sam Piatt can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or gsamwriter@aol.com.